TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida are turning the effort to remove non-citizens from voting lists into a political fundraising appeal and are attacking President Barack Obama, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, former Gov. Charlie Crist and others along the way.
But Scott says the effort that once questioned the citizenship of as many as 180,000 registered voters isn’t about politics.
“You see, unlike President Obama’s allies, I don’t view the world through a partisan lens,” says a letter mailed by the party and signed by Scott. “I’m appalled that so many Democrats have stepped up to defend the right of non-citizens to cast ballots in Florida.”
The letter tells donors if they agree with Scott’s voter purge, to send a check to the Republican Party of Florida. It suggests amounts ranging from $25 to “$1,000 or more.”
The Florida Democratic Party said the state GOP shouldn’t be using the purge to raise money when it’s been involved in its own voter fraud problem. The state GOP recently fired a firm it hired to register voters when it was revealed forged registration forms were being turned in.
“It’s shocking and appalling that the governor and the RPOF would solicit money while they remain embroiled in an elections fraud scandal. The right to vote is the most sacred we have. Instead of asking for money for their political activities — which remain under investigation — the RPOF should explain to the voters the extent of their involvement in this scandal,” said Democratic Party spokeswoman Brannon Jordan.
Scott wouldn’t answer questions about the fundraising appeal.
“You’ll have to talk to the Republican Party of Florida,” he said, repeating his response when told his name was on the letter and asked if he approved it.
The party said it’s hypocritical for Democrats to criticize the state GOP fundraising effort since they’ve also used the issue to raise money. Spokesman Brian Burgess pointed to separate appeals by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“Thank you for taking a stand against Republican schemes to suppress the Democratic vote and manipulate the 2012 elections. Can you fight back with a contribution to the 2012 Election Protection Project?” says a DSCC pitch. “If we fail to fight back, Democratic votes — and the Senate and White House — could be lost.”
Scott first pushed last year to have the state look for non-U.S. citizens on the rolls. The state initially compared a list of driver’s licenses with voter registration data and came up with a potential list of 180,000 voters suspected of not being citizens.
That list was pared back to a much smaller one of more than 2,600 registered voters that was sent to county election officials this past spring. Many election supervisors, however, did not wind up removing anyone after questions about the accuracy of the list arose — hundreds of voters turned out to be citizens. The list is now down to about 200 after the state reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to screen names on a federal immigration database.
Democrats and others have criticized the effort, saying that while they agree non-citizens shouldn’t vote, the voter purge also risks taking away votes from citizens who were properly registered. Critics also have argued that the list unfairly targets Hispanics.
The fundraising letter seeks to make the matter a political issue, despite Scott’s claims that it’s simply about following the law.
It begins by saying, “In Chicago, it’s well known that dead people and non-citizens cast ballots ‘early and often.’” Obama is from Chicago and his campaign is based there.
The letter also hits Crist, a former Republican who isn’t registered with either major party. Many speculate, however, that Crist may try a return to politics as a Democrat and seek to challenge Scott.
“I’m equally appalled that neither Crist nor the Democrats have stepped up to defend the right of millions of legal Florida voters to cast ballots.”
The letter goes on to say that Nelson, who is seeking his third term, “claimed that somehow, preventing non-citizens from voting is discriminatory.”
“I fully support only citizens voting. The problem was that the governor’s efforts would have kept hundreds of legal voters from casting ballots,” Nelson said. “Such an attempted purge interferes with one of our basic rights — the right to vote.”